Great Auk Facts
The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless bird that was driven to extinction in the mid 1800's. The once huge colonies of these birds that were found on the shores of
the North Atlantic were hunted into extinction for food and for its feathers (down). On this page of Extinct Animals List you will find interesting facts about the Great Auk
including where it lived and how and when it became extinct. As with all our pages this information is written for both kids and adults to understand.
Great Auk Description Facts
- This bird was between 30 and 33 inches (75 to 85 centimeters) tall.
- The Great Auks average weight was 11 pounds (5 kilograms).
- This animal was basically black all over except for its white belly.
- It had a heavy curved beak that was about 4.3 inches (11 centimeters) long.
- These birds wings were tiny; which is why it could not fly. They were generally just less than 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
- The Great Auk had webbed feet which helped it swim.
- When walking this bird had an upright posture.
- During the summer this animal would have a white patch over both of its eyes. During the winter these patches disappeared and were replaced by a white band between its eyes.
Interesting Great Auk Facts
- Although not a penguin this bird is often referred to as the "penguin of the north".
- This bird is sometimes called a garefowl.
- This animal's habitat was the freezing cold waters of the North Atlantic. It was found along the northern coasts of North America and Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe
Islands which are approximately halfway between Iceland and Norway.
- The Great Auk was a member of the alcid family which consists of web-footed birds with short wings and legs. Other members of this family include murres, and puffins.
- The Great Auk's food source was the plentiful fish in the North Atlantic. It also ate crabs.
- Like most Nordic animals the Great Auk had a thick layer of fat which helped protect it from the extremely cold conditions of its habitat.
- Like penguins the great Auk was a graceful and fast swimmer but on land it was clumsy and slow.
- Native Americans valued these animals as a food source and for clothing.
- Great Auks stayed partners with their mate for life.
- These animals were very social and lived in large colonies.
- The word "penguin" was originally used for Great Auks and is derived from the Welsh word pen gwyn which means "white head".
- These birds would breed on the rocky islands of the North Atlantic. Only one egg was laid at a time.
- In 1775 in an attempt to save these birds from extinction Newfoundland petitioned Britain to stop killing the Great Auks. They were unsuccessful in stopping the slaughter.
- After their population was reduced to a dangerously low level by hunting Great Auks became in high demand by collectors including museums. This was the final factor that drove
them into extinction.